(In light of the recent scandals involving the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Obama administration’s Justice Department seizing phone records from journalists, New Mexico Watchdog asked former two-term governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson to offer his opinion on the controversies. Here’s Gov. Johnson’s response:)
By Gary Johnson │ Special to New Mexico Watchdog
For the past couple of weeks, the politicians in Washington, DC, have been engaged in their beloved sport of chasing “scandals.”
First, they were handed the gift of an Internal Revenue Service admission that certain non-profit organizations have been singled out for outrageous degrees of scrutiny and harassment.And almost simultaneously, it came to light that the Department of Justice has been secretly spying on journalists — obtaining phone records, reading emails, and even tracking some of those journalists’ movements.
Congress is holding hearings as fast as they can schedule them, and the demands for “heads to roll” are growing every day.
Let me be clear: I don’t disagree that IRS harassment — targeted or otherwise — is scandalous. Nor do I disagree that it is, indeed, chilling that our government is spying on journalists. I certainly agree that heads should roll.
But … while the frenzy over these scandals is perhaps appropriate, we cannot let Congress and the politicians off the hook as they stumble over one another trying to get in front of the TV cameras.
The IRS did not appear out of nowhere. It is entirely a creation of decades of law-making and special interest politics that have produced a federal monster with almost 100,000 employees armed with 74,000 pages of rules and regulations. What do those regulations do? They enforce laws designed with remarkable elegance to reward, punish or manipulate almost every aspect of our lives and businesses.
It is not even a little shocking that a government given that much power and that many tools will abuse that power. If a parent hands a teenager the keys to a car with a case of beer in the back seat, should that parent be outraged when the kid gets a DUI or hurts himself or someone else?
Don’t forget. It was President Obama who stood before Congress in a State of the Union speech and decried the unfettered influence of non-profit advocacy groups. Now, he is flabbergasted that his 100,000 person IRS is making life difficult for some of those same groups.
The same goes for the “shocking” revelations that the Department of Justice is secretly obtaining citizens’ phone records, emails, and other personal information. Yes, when they do it to journalists, the stakes are raised a bit and legitimate concerns about the First Amendment come into play. But when we see members of Congress and Senators expressing their outrage, shouldn’t we be asking if they voted for the Patriot Act or any of the other laws that authorized DOJ to go forth and do those outrageous things?
In the frantic post 9/11 rush to “protect” us, both the Administration and Congress enacted laws and issued directives that, in a nutshell, said: “Do whatever you have to do, even if it means trampling on a few of the very rights we are supposed to be preserving.” Yes, at that painful juncture, a great many Americans were OK with that. But today, we are still living with those decisions — and those same politicians are somehow surprised that the behemoth they created is getting out of hand?
Perhaps Congress and all the outraged politicians should take a step back from the TV cameras and find a mirror. Raking bureaucrats over the coals when something goes awry is easy.
The hard part is facing the reality that those bureaucrats didn’t create the bloated government and the over-reaching authority that not only allows, but encourages, abuse.
If they truly need scapegoats, the mirror is the place to look.